Somewhat clarifying the remarks he made on Saturday, Sean Spicer, White House press secretary, said on Monday that if you add in the people who watched the event on TV, on digital devices -- to those who showed up in-person -- it was the “largest” ever.
Nielsen said the traditional linear TV ratings from 12 TV networks totaled 31 million for Trump; President Ronald Reagan’s 1981 inauguration earned 41 million.
Here is what Spicer said on Saturday, in a combative tone: “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration — period — both in person and around the globe."
Two separate things -- or not? And was there a correction or clarification when Spicer next spoke to the press?
“I mean there are times when you guys tweet something out or write a story and you publish a correction,” in speaking to the press on Monday. “That doesn’t mean you were intentionally trying to deceive readers and the American people, does it? And I think we should be afforded the same opportunity.”
He added: "If you add up the network streaming numbers, Facebook, YouTube, all the various live streamings that we have information on so far, I don't think there's any question that it was the largest-watched inauguration ever."
Sorry. You can’t simply add Internet viewing metrics to traditional TV viewing measures.
The industry has had many long discussions about this. Measuring digital video viewing commonly comes as unique number of viewers or perhaps the number of streams. Either way, you can’t tell immediately how long viewers watched; it be a single second or less. Traditional linear TV viewing comes in measuring viewers via average viewing minutes.
The facts: Trump’s inauguration wasn’t No. 1 when looking at traditional linear TV measurement -- average minute ratings. He came in fifth place. Spicer, in a softer Monday tone, said: “Sometimes we disagree with the facts.”
Trump’s profile continues to be of the highest importance to him and his staff.
We all remember during the Republican debates how Trump touted that cable TV networks high ratings -- and high ad sales -- were thanks to his appearances. He felt meant extra money should come his way -- $5 million from CNN, according to one example. He claimed he would donate the money to veterans’ charities.
Trump has looked at TV ratings closely many other times -- going back to “Celebrity Apprentice.” In 2011, he said the show was the No. 1TV viewing show on NBC. On the NBC’s “Today” show, he said: “I hate to say it, I have the No. 1 show on NBC.”
Yes, it was -- just for one week ending April 3, 2011 and among 18-49 viewers, not for total viewers. No matter, it didn’t last long. For the entire season, the show landed fifth on NBC and 36th overall.
With President Trump now in control, expect ongoing challenges to political TV ratings data and marketing metrics.